By Jay Young
It was during the 2012 season when players from the Frewsburg Bears football team were first considered for the annual Big 30 Don Raabe Charities Classic All Star Game, which pits some of the best players from New York and Pennsylvania against each other.
Tanner John of Salamanca scrambles out of the pocket for the New York team in the 2013 Big 30 Don Raabe Charities Classic All Star Game.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
That year's game was also the first that included players from Southwestern and the Frewsburg coaching staff was given the honor of coaching the New York team.
Bears head coach Terry Gray was unable to coach that 2012 game, but he hasn't had to wait to long to get another shot at working with some of New York's finest players.
For the 2014 Big 30, Frewsburg's coaching staff has once again been selected to coach for the Blue squad.
Gray and his staff will take to the field at Bradford Stadium in Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. on Aug. 2 along with some of their own players.
"Two years ago was the first time (our staff) had the chance to do it,'' said Gray. ''I was part of picking the team, but was sick and did not get a chance to go to the game."
You can imagine that after not being able to take the field for the Big 30 as head coach that Gray did not hesitate to take the job once again this year.
"We jumped on the opportunity," he said. "If you are a football person there is no better opportunity than to coach some high-character kids."
Taking on the roll as head coach of a Big 30 team does come with its fair share of challenges. Players and coaches from both teams have to travel to different high schools around New York and Pennsylvania for practices leading up to the game, which makes for some late nights on the road.
"We had our first practice in Ellicottville and then we are in Olean and Monday we will be in Salamanca," said Gray.
See BIG 30, Page B4
Joining Gray on the long journeys to and from practices have been assistants Adam Loftus, Brendan Carter and Rob Collver. While you might think that taking time out of their summer schedules could be a hassle for the coaches, Gray has had the opposite experience with his staff.
"It is good for our coaching staff,'' he said. ''It gives them two weeks to bond together and an hour and half in the car to and from practice every night gives you a lot of time to talk football.''
In addition to the traveling, organizing a roster of players from various schools presents a real challenge for coaches in the Big 30.
"What I learned about an all star-game is that you get two weeks to work with kids from (several) different schools and what you have to do as a coach is not take the athlete out of the player," said Gray. "That is fun, that is coaching and you look forward to that.''
The local selections for the Big 30 include Justin Forster of Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Mitch Maycock of Randolph, Brennan Geiger of Gowanda, Lucas Brown of Randolph, Colin Anderson of Frewsburg, Patrick Kibbe of Randolph, Sean Connell of Salamanca, Bradley Cunningham of Salamanca, Nate Myers of Gowanda, Damian Watts of Cattaraugus Little Valley, Trevor Spicer of Frewsburg, Colt Agnew of Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Bryce Peterson of Frewsburg, Kyle Moran of Southwestern, Tanner Hoose of Southwestern, Kevin Rogers of Frewsburg, Chris Doubek of Randolph and Cody Oldro of Randolph.
Leading the offense for the New York Blue Team will be two of the best quarterbacks in the state with two-time defending Class D state champion Maycock splitting time with Anzivine.
For Gray, the challenge will be to marry the playing styles of two quarterbacks who come from different systems into one offense.
During the Big 30, which is played in four 15-minute quarters, coaches have to put together two full rosters on each side of the ball and have players switch off every-other series.
The good news is that all of the players that have been selected for the game are the best that their respective teams have to offer, so the coaches don't have to worry about motivation.
"Practices are very high tempo and competitive and no one wants to get beat," said Gray. ''You have to do your job as a coach to tune it down a bit sometimes
The majority of players stepping on to the field at Bradford Stadium will be playing in the last competitive football game of their careers and they couldn't ask for a better stage to say goodbye to the sport.
"Bradford Stadium is gorgeous, it is turf, and it will be packed from the parade and the festivies right up until game time," said Gray.
The game will be preceded by a walk-through on Friday and a parade at noon before kickoff.
Anyone interested in aiding the Charity Classic or looking for more information can find the event's Facebook page at Don Raabe Big 30.